He’s the friendliest ghost you know, but could he also be a great given name?
Thanks to Christy for suggesting Casper as our Baby Name of the Day.
Casper is the Dutch and Scandinavian form of an ancient appellation. By tradition, it is the name of one of the three wise men. It probably comes from a Persian or Chaldean word meaning treasurer – appropriate for a dignitary sent bearing gifts to a future king. The name seems to have evolved to Gaspar by the sixth century – and while there’s debate, it appears that the G spelling probably came first.
It’s a well-traveled name: he’s Gaspar, Gaspare, Gaspard in Spanish, Italian, and French. The G became a K in German and Polish – Kaspar, Kacper. (The c makes a ts sound.) He’s Jasper and Jesper in medieval English, though Casper also surfaces in English, too. The various forms seem to have been very popular throughout Europe into the 1700s.
Casper appeared in the US Top 1000 from 1880 through 1933, but he’s been gone ever since.
In the US, Casper has always been eclipsed by Jasper. He’s never left the Top 1000, and as of 2011 was back to #282. We can find Jaspers throughout history: Jasper Tudor was uncle to Henry VII, and became Duke of Bedford. More recently there’s artist Jasper Johns and author Jasper Fforde. Today, Jasper is also a mineral and gemstone, putting him in the company of Ruby and Pearl.
Other notables by the name include:
- Mayan ruler Rabbit 11 ruled in the fifth century, and is sometimes referred to as Casper – because his name glyph looks like the cartoon ghost.
- You might find a listing for Saint Casper, though he was born in Italy in the late 1700s and would have been known as Gaspare.
- Casper, Wyoming takes its name from Casper Collins, a lieutenant at the original fort who was killed in a skirmish with the local Native American tribe.
- The Badrutt family invented the idea of winter tourism in St. Moritz, Switzerland, transforming how wealthy Europeans spent their winter months forevermore. At least one of the family members answered to Caspar.
- Actor Casper Van Dien, Jr. is wearing a family name – one that he’s passed down to his son.
And then there’s the cartoon.
Back in the 1930s, Casper was created for a children’s book, but was sold to Paramount Studio instead and first appeared on screen in 1945. The name would have been fading even then – appropriate for a ghost. He appeared in comics, shorts and cartoons through the 1960s and 70s. A 1995 feature film revived Casper for another generation.
The animated ghost probably took name out of contention for years. But could he make a comeback? In his favor:
- He’s got great nickname potentials – Cas, Cash, Cap
- Ends with r is a huge category for boys – boosting Jasper
- Claudia Schiffer has daughters Clementine and Cosima and son Caspar
- Jason Lee gave the name to a daughter, Casper Alice
In 2012, could Casper shed his animated past to be seen as a lively option for a son?